Elongation factor P (EF-P) is a universally conserved bacterial translation factor. In many bacteria, EF-P is posttranslationally modified by PoxA, which covalently attaches a β-lysine to a conserved lysine residue of EF-P. Here we show that both EF-P and PoxA are necessary for virulence of the human diarrheal pathogen Shigella flexneri. Loss of either EF-P or PoxA leads to an impaired ability of S. flexneri to invade epithelial cells and form plaques in an epithelial cell monolayer. Proteomic analysis of efp and poxA deletion mutants revealed decreased levels of several virulence effector proteins, including IpaA, -B, and -C and IcsA. Additionally, mRNA levels of virB and virF, which encode master virulence regulators, were decreased in the efp mutant. The reduction in virF transcription was at least partially due to decreased levels of CpxA, which activates virF through the response regulator CpxR. The role of CpxAR in reduced synthesis of VirF and its downstream effectors was indicated by restoration of invasion when a mutation resulting in constitutively activated CpxR was introduced into the efp mutant. Thus, modified EF-P is required for appropriate synthesis of proteins involved in the virulence of this bacterial pathogen.
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